Being a special teams coach in training camp can be a tough job because of the sheer volume of players on the roster they have to keep track of and manage. On a 90-man roster, only a handful of the star players don't play on special teams, so it's a tough job, but an important one. Special teams coaches are great to talk to because they have a really good grasp of the entire roster.
Lions special teams coordinator Dave Fipp spoke to the media Wednesday. Here are my five biggest takeaways from that session:
1. The biggest special teams competition right now is at kicker between Austin Seibert and Riley Patterson. Fipp said that evaluation will ultimately come down to the whole body of work, not just who makes or misses more field goals in camp. He's looking at how each guy prepares, what they bring to the table in the kickoff game and other intangibles. The good thing for the Lions is that Fipp thinks both guys are NFL-caliber players. He will feel really good about going into the season with whoever wins the job.
2. The Lions are going to conduct two joint practices with the Colts in Indianapolis Aug. 17 & 18, and Fipp said that's going to be two really good days of work for the special teams unit. He said he might only see one really good punt rush from an opponent in the preseason because they're probably working on the return game. In joint practices, Fipp said they can get some really good work against the rush and other elements of special teams in a controlled environment that protects their punter/kicker, and also allows them to work against a different scheme.
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3. Linebackers play a big role on special teams because of their size/speed combination and skillset. There are still some question marks when it comes to the linebacker position on defense, but the Lions are pretty stacked at the position from a special teams perspective with players like Chris Board, Anthony Pittman, Josh Woods and Malcolm Rodriguez in the mix.
"I feel really good about this group overall especially from my standpoint on special teams," Fipp said. "We have a bunch of guys competing for a job - I feel like all of them can do it. They all have different pluses and minuses, strengths and weaknesses which will factor in once we cut down the roster and play a game. At the end of the day, we are in a good position with the linebacker group for sure on special teams."
4. It was a rough start for Godwin Igwebuike last year as a kick returner, but credit to him for turning it around and finishing the season with one of the best kickoff return averages in the league. Fipp said he really likes the way Igwebuike attacked the offseason and he's looked good to start camp. He'll very much be in the mix for Detroit's kick return job.
5. One player Fipp thinks has taken a big leap from Year 1 to Year 2 from a special teams perspective is running back Jermar Jefferson. Fipp was blunt in his assessment of Jefferson last season, saying it simply wasn't good enough. If Jefferson is going to make the roster as a backup running back, special teams has to be part of his repertoire. Fipp said the preseason will be big for Jefferson, but based off practice he feels good about the progress he's making.